Months ago when PREMIUM TIMES asked me to write a weekly column for the paper, I made it very clear to the publishers that the history of civilizations shows that a civilization rises and falls based on its ethics. I added that contrary to popular beliefs that tend to look at our problems in Nigeria from narrow ethnic lens, our fundamental problem in Nigeria is that we do not privilege the ethical in public life. The ethical in Nigeria’s public life has remained in the margins. We never allowed the ethical ideas of any of our heroes such as Tai Solarin, Bala Usman, Ayodele Awojobi, Mogwuko Okoye, Gani Fawehinmi etc to dominate our public lives.
Thus, the failure of the political class in Nigeria to have a consensus on the simplest policy in public affairs is their failure to make ethics and the moral question the basis of conversation within themselves. So I told Mr. Dàpọ̀ Ọlọ́rùńyọmí, and the PREMIUM TIMES management that my essays will begin and stop with the ethical and the moral and their absence in our public life. The ethical life is the first principle with which nations re-invent themselves and our dear country cannot be an exception.. The PREMIUM TIMES folks agreed.
Unfortunately, Mr. Joel Nduka’s belated attempt to rescue one of the symbols of immorality in the Nigerian House of Representatives – Mr. Lawan Farouk confirmed my fears about Nigeria. In my essay “Farouk Lawan Must leave The House Now”, I used the ethical conduct and lives of three respected Nigerian judges to show how the sanctity of the interpretation of law rests on the moral. This is in the moral conduct of their adjudication of law. These respected judges are Justices Ọlájọńpọ̀ Akíǹkúgbé, Àkànbí and Uche Omoh. They were part of the first set of Justices of the Federal Court Of Appeal, Ibadan.
The point is that if you injure the moral as a process in the interpretation of the law, you have impugned that law. This is the intersection of the ethical and the law. If the moral and ethics are true for the interpretation of the law, they ought to be truer for the making of law since if a law is not made, judges have nothing interpret.
Sadly, Mr. Farouk Lawan’s conduct and that of one of his advocates, Mr. Nduka, do not show that they understand the intersection of moral and ethics with law making. If they do, their understanding of ethics in law must be very lean and slender indeed. Mr. Nduka’s unfortunate slender understanding of ethics in law making blinded him to commit serious aggression against reasoning and thought in his failed defense of Mr. Lawan.
Mr. Nduka seems to forget that Mr. Farouk Lawan is a Nigerian lawmaker. A lawmaker does not interact up to the point of collecting money from an actual and potential lawbreaker such as Mr. Otedola outside the law. For example I am teacher. Suppose I am asked to look into an issue in my school, as a teacher, I must not interact with my students and now especially my female students outside the law. Even if I do not have respect for myself, if I do this I am gone. I lose my job. It is an unimpeachable moral issue. Simple. It is painful that Mr. Lawan and Mr. Nduka do not understand this elementary truth and ethical point.
Since Mr. Lawan and Mr. Nduka have shown a serious lack of capacity to understand the ethical and moral in law making, I will show how Mr. Nduka commit serial illogicalities in his defense of his client- Mr. Lawan Farouk. The illogicalities I am pointing to are called fallacies.
Mr. Nduka claimed that my moral viewpoint is skewed therefore Mr. Lawan Farouk is innocent until proved guilty by the court. This is a standard straw man. In a straw man claim, you direct your “argument” at the wrong position as if it is the true position. My case against Mr. Farouk is an ethical one. The court handles the criminal one.
This is the ethical issue. Mr. Lawan has told the nation that he met with a potential lawbreaker Mr. Otedola and collected money outside the law on a case he, Mr. Lawan, is investigating. In black and white, Mr. Lawan has changed his story at least twice. He first denied the whole thing. In the face of evidence of contact between him and Mr. Otedola, he changed and agreed he met him and proceeded on a different narrative. For my lawmaker, Mr. Lawan- to change his story at least twice is sufficient for me to be morally offended. Some Nigerians may not be offended morally. They have a right not to be. But I am a Nigerian. I am morally offended that my lawmaker looked straight into my eyes and lied to my family, my children and to me. Thus, I propose that just as it is immoral for me to meet my female students I am investigating outside the law of the country I live in, it is immoral for Mr. Farouk to meet Mr. Otedola a potential lawbreaker outside the law.
Second it is a straw man’ fallacy to use my moral charge against Mr. Lawan to prove that Mr. Otedola is equally guilty and that Mr. Otedola’s “evidence falls flat” or vice versa. These are two separate things. My views about characters like Mr. Otedola are well known and documented. I do not need to add anything. However, my job as an ethicist is to show how hopelessly, irredeemably and incurably unethical and immoral Mr. Lawan’s contact with Mr. Otedola is. These are two separate questions; you do not need to be a rocket scientist to know this. The courts, the law and police will handle Mr. Otedola’s evidence or lack of it. Mr. Nduka’s straw man fails to discharge Mr. Lawan Farouk of intense and sickening immorality in his discharge of his duties to the nation in the Lawan/Otedola case.
As a side issue, unfortunately, Mr. Nduka himself has not waited for the courts to pronounce on the evidence for or against Mr. Lawan Farouk. He has pronounced it by himself! Does he know something the courts and the Nigerian people do not know?
Third, Mr. Nduka continued to fall from one illogicality to the other. Read him in his words: “Mr. Lawan is a victim…” This is the structure of Mr.…. claim: “Mr. Lawan is a victim of…therefore he is not immoral.” In a fallacy called appeal to pity, you whip up emotions as your premise and then base your conclusion on the emotion as premise. This is done to overwhelm your audience with the ocean of pity. The point is that Mr. Lawan’s unethical behavior is logically independent of his being a victim if he is truly one. Mr. Lawan must tell our children, Nigerian children how his behavior is morally enviable. He must tell Nigerian children why it is good to copy what he has done.
Fourth, Mr. Nduka’s defense of his client knew no bounds. He lunched into a shocking red herring fallacy when he attempted to change the argument by linking the guilt of the oil marketers, DPR, PPRA and NNPC to Mr. Lawan’s immorality. The guilt of the oil marketers is a completely separate thing from Mr. Lawan’s nauseating immorality in meeting Mr. Otedola and hoping to defend it. Now this is the structure of Mr. Nduka’s red herring. “Mr. Lawan’s act is not immoral because the oil marketers, DPR, PPRA and NNPC are guilty.” This claim is nothing but a serious affront to thought and reason. Law making is serious affair for nations who take themselves seriously. It is not fine nor is it cool if Mr. Nduka thinks otherwise.
Fifth, Mr. Joel Nduka betrayed too much when he fell into a serious ad hominem, a variant of circumstantial fallacy, when he appealed to Mr. Lawan’s alleged history of “selflessness, integrity and hard work” in the house. Mr. Lawan’s alleged history in the house is non sequitur-meaning that it does not follow. Mr. Lawan himself claimed that he went to Mr. Otedola and collected money. He did this outside the law. This is what is before Nigerian people. So it does not follow that Mr. Lawan is not immoral because he has an alleged history of integrity and selflessness in the house. What Mr. Nduka needs to prove is whether it is moral or immoral for Mr. Lawan to go to someone he is investigating and collect money outside the law.
Finally, to call an argument “skewed” as Mr. Nduka did, does not prove that Mr. Lawan is not immoral. Mr. Nduka only needs to show that it is moral and ethical for Mr. Lawan to visit Mr. Otedola outside the law and collect money from Mr. Otedola who he is investigating.
Mr. Lawan’s moral blight and Mr. Nduka’s deepening of it confirms to me the ethical issue I told Mr. Dàpọ̀ Ọlọ́rùńyọmí, when he invited me to write for PREMIUM TIMES. It seems to me that the Nigerian political class and their advocates have erased the simple word called ethics from their world and vocabulary. They then act with a complete and deadly lack of capacity for the moral. This is sad and tragic especially for our children who are in search of Nigerian heroes after whom they wish to model their lives.
For the sake of the future of our children, I repeat that characters like Mr. Farouk Lawan Must Leave The Nigerian House of Representatives Now. I call on the moral in Nigerians to join this as a moral example to our children and their future.
Adeolu Ademoyo (email@example.com) is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.